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by German Lopez 10.29.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Economy, 2013 Election at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

State job numbers mislead, Cranley didn't repay $75,000 loan, county to vote on budget

Many jobs the state government claims it’s creating don’t actually exist, according to The Toledo Blade. The Ohio Development Services Agency claims it improved its process for tracking the effects of taxpayer-financed loans, grants and subsidies, but The Blade found errors led to more than 11,000 claimed jobs that likely don’t exist. Part of the problem is that the state relies on companies to self-report job numbers; although the Ohio Development Services Agency is supposed to authenticate the reports, officials almost never visit businesses that get tax incentives. The discrepancy between claimed job creation and reality raises more questions about the efforts of JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators that recommends many of the tax subsidies going to Ohio businesses. CityBeat covered JobsOhio in further detail here.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley didn’t repay a $75,000 loan for his Incline Village Project in East Price Hill that was meant to go to a medical office and 77 apartments that never came to fruition. Kathy Schwab of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which loaned the money to Cranley’s former development company, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that they worked out terms to repay the loan after the news broke yesterday. Supporters of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign say the news casts doubt on whether Cranley is as fiscally responsible as he’s led on while stumping on the campaign trail. As The Enquirer notes, Cranley is very proud of the Incline Project and often touts it to show off his experience building a successful project in the private sector.

Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on a budget on Nov. 6. This year’s budget is the first time in six years that the county won’t need to make major cuts to close a gap. But the commissioners also told WVXU that it’s unlikely they’ll take up the county coroner’s plan for a new crime lab, which county officials say is a dire need.

A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the voter rolls, less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled Simes is eligible to vote in Cincinnati. The case has been mired in politics since it was first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes’ support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit, who are backed by the attorney that regularly supports the anti-streetcar, anti-Qualls Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting. The dispute hinges on whether Simes’ registered residence for voting — a condo owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell — is a place where he truly lived or just visited throughout 2013. Currently, no hearing or judge is set for the lawsuit.

Pure Romance officially signed a lease for new headquarters in downtown Cincinnati, which means the $100-million-plus company is now set to move from its Loveland, Ohio, location starting in January 2014. Pure Romance originally considered moving to Kentucky after Ohio reneged on a tax deal, but council ultimately upped its offer to bring the company to Cincinnati. As part of its deal with the city, Pure Romance will get $854,000 in tax breaks over the next 10 years, but it will need to stay in Cincinnati for 20 years. The city administration estimates the deal will generate $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades and at least 126 high-paying jobs over three years.

One in six Ohioans lived in poverty in 2012, putting the state poverty rate above pre-recession levels, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Two Butler County students were arrested yesterday after they allegedly threatened to go on a shooting spree on Facebook.

Rachel Maddow accused Ky. Sen. Rand Paul of plagiarizing his speech off Wikipedia.

The Taste of Belgium’s next location: Rookwood Exchange.

Pollinating bees could deliver pesticides in the future.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

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by German Lopez 10.28.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, COAST at 04:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
randy simes

Lawsuit Filed to Scrub Blogger Off Voter Rolls

COAST attorney files lawsuit following board of elections ruling

A lawsuit filed on Oct. 23 asks the Hamilton County Court of Appeals to compel the Hamilton County Board of Elections to scrub UrbanCincy.com owner Randy Simes off the local voter rolls.

The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after the board of elections ruled that Simes is eligible to vote in Cincinnati.

The case has been mired in politics since it was first filed to the board of elections. Simes’ supporters claim the legal actions are meant to suppress Simes support for the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ mayoral campaign. Proponents of the lawsuit argue they’re just trying to uphold the integrity of voting.

Attorney Curt Hartman is spearheading the lawsuit. He regularly represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group that opposes the streetcar project and Qualls.

The lawsuit claims Simes isn’t legally able to vote in Cincinnati because he currently resides in South Korea and lived in Chicago prior to the move overseas.

Ohio election law requires a place of residency to vote, but someone can remain on the voter rolls if he or she intends to return to the city or state while in another part of the country or overseas.

Simes’ supporters, who the board of elections sided with on Oct. 14, claim Simes has every intention of returning to Cincinnati when he’s done with his work in South Korea. Simes contract with his employer, Parsons Brinckerhoff, states he’ll return to Cincinnati in two years.

Until then, Simes is registered to vote at a condominium owned by his friend and business colleague, Travis Estell.

According to Estell’s testimony to the board of election, Simes kept a key and sometimes stayed for a week when he came and went from the residence throughout the spring and summer. Simes also has credit card and bank mail sent to the address, and he attempted to change his registered driver’s license address to match the residence, Estell said.

But Hartman says the evidence, which was gathered largely through Simes’ social media activities, shows Simes was a visitor, not a resident. He cites Estell’s testimony that Simes lived out of a suitcase and didn’t pay rent when he stayed in Cincinnati.

Tim Burke, chairman of the board of elections and Hamilton County Democratic Party, says there’s a reason three out of four members of the board, including one Republican, agreed Simes should remain on the voter rolls.

“The facts that were presented didn’t rise to the legal standard of clear and convincing evidence to justify depriving the voter of his right to vote,” Burke says.

Burke likens the arrangement to a Procter & Gamble employee who spends a year or two overseas but still keeps the right to vote in Cincinnati. Burke says someone could even sell his home in Cincinnati and keep his right to vote from the sold residence.

Hartman says the comparison doesn’t work because a Procter & Gamble employee would live in and keep ties to Cincinnati prior to moving overseas. He claims Simes’ decision to register to vote from Chicago in 2012 effectively broke his electoral ties with Cincinnati and Ohio.

But the argument could be rendered moot. Burke, who is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit, says the legal challenge might not make it to court because two different people filed the lawsuit to the court of appeals and complaint to the board of elections. That could render the lawsuit procedurally defective and lead to a dismissal, according to Burke.

The lawsuit currently has no scheduled hearing or judge, but Hartman says he hopes to expedite hearings in time for the Nov. 5 election.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.28.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Privacy, Health care at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill could reduce voting, panel wants facial recognition limits, governors debate Obamacare

A Republican-proposed bill in the Ohio legislature is drawing criticism from voting rights advocates because they say it would unnecessarily limit absentee voting. The bill would permit the secretary of state to send out absentee-ballot applications on even years, when gubernatorial and presidential elections are held, only if the legislature funds the mailings, and it would prevent county election boards from mailing out additional ballot applications beyond what the state sends out. Previously, some counties mailed unsolicited ballot applications to all voters to potentially reduce lines on Election Day. Voting rights advocates say the bill will dampen and reduce voter participation, but State Sen. Bill Coley, the bill’s sponsor, argues it’s necessary to bring uniformity to county-by-county absentee voting.

A nine-member panel of criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access and improving oversight of Ohio’s controversial facial recognition program, following a two-month review of the system and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight. The facial recognition program, which is part of a state database of criminal justice records known as the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear debated Obamacare on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Beshear pointed to his state’s successful rollout of Kynect, a Kentucky-operated online marketplace for state-based health insurance plans. The Kentucky marketplace has already enrolled 26,000 Kentuckians, although 21,000 are Medicaid enrollees. Meanwhile, Kasich criticized the rocky launch of the federal portal HealthCare.gov, which only applies to states, like Ohio, that declined to run their own online marketplaces. The federal portal has been practically unworkable for a huge majority of Americans since it launched on Oct. 1. Kasich also claimed Obamacare will increase health insurance costs in Ohio — a claim that goes against findings in a national premium model developed by Avik Roy, a conservative health care expert who is typically critical of Obamacare. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s Ohio rollout in further detail here.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source after he posted racist insults aimed at her on social media. WCPO quoted Kiefer in a story as a John Cranley supporter, but the Cranley campaign quickly distanced itself from Kiefer upon learning of his history of bigoted posts on his Facebook wall, which was public at the time but is now private. Kiefer told CityBeat the posts were supposed to be jokes.

The ongoing mayoral race looks like the most expensive since Cincinnati began directly electing its mayors in 2001.

City Council could move forward with a plan next month to reduce the noise freight trains make overnight.

Emma and William were the most popular names in Cincinnati in 2012.

Ohio gas prices dipped this week after two straight weeks of increases.

The furthest confirmed galaxy shows off light from just 700 million years after the Big Bang.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 10.25.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, Prisons, Privatization, Voting at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting

Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election, assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.

A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence. Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it became the first state prison to be sold to a private company, Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov. John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions also included measures that would allow online voter registration and limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.

A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private entities.

Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state, require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative panel.

Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.

Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.

A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed. Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and rowdiness.”

Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.

Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.

Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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by German Lopez 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto

Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.

Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency personnel to enter.

Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is “silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.

A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid. The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.

The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.

Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”

It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.

Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.

The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.

Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).

 
 
by German Lopez 06.14.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Health, News, Voting at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Bill restricts abortions, locals to combat infant deaths, Reece criticizes voter investigations

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is also looking to talk to anyone who’s been incarcerated for a drug-related offense in Ohio. If you know someone or are someone interested in talking to us, email glopez@citybeat.com.

An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would impose harsher restrictions on legal abortions, and some of the requirements may coerce doctors into giving medically inaccurate information. Among other requirements, the bill would force doctors to explain fetal development and supposed risks to inducing an abortion, while pregnant patients would be forced to undergo an ultrasound 48 hours before the procedure. But research has found that, barring rare complications, the medical risks listed in the bill are not linked to abortion.

Local leaders are beginning a collaborative effort to combat Cincinnati's alarmingly high rate of infant mortality. The effort is bringing together local politicians from both sides of the aisle, nonprofit groups and local hospitals. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6, while the national average is six. In previous comments, Mayor Mark Mallory explained his moral justification for increased efforts against infant mortality: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."

State Rep. Alicia Reece, who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday criticizing recent efforts to investigate 39 voter fraud cases in Hamilton County. "It is unfortunate that during the past few years, the focus has been on voter suppression instead of voter access and education," Reece said in a statement. "Many of these voters come from African-American and low-income neighborhoods, and they would benefit from a comprehensive voter education program." CityBeat previously covered the 39 "double voter" cases, which mostly involved voters sending an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voting through a provisional ballot on Election Day, here.

Mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith squared off at a mayoral forum yesterday. Democrats Qualls and Cranley, who are widely seen as the top contenders, debated the parking plan and streetcar project — both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar project and how it could relate to the mayor's race here.

An audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found Ohio's Medicaid program could save $30 million by avoiding fraudulent billing. State officials responded to the audit by highlighting changes in budget plans that supposedly take steps to reduce Medicaid fraud, including Gov. John Kasich's proposal to add five full-time Medicaid auditors to perform additional on-site monitoring in an effort to reduce overpayments.

Ohio lawmakers seem unlikely to approve a federally funded Medicaid expansion, but bipartisan bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program that aim to lower costs and make the government health care program more efficient. Legislators claim the goal is to bring down costs without reducing services, all while providing avenues for Medicaid participants to move out of poverty. Hearings for the bill will begin next week.

After giving a speech celebrating the resurfacing of a high-speed test track, Gov. Kasich rode a car at 130 miles per hour in a more literal "victory lap."

Scientists are apparently making advancements in helping people regrow limbs.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.11.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Voting at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown grocery advances, city pension in trouble, county to investigate “double voters”

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a development plan for Fourth and Race streets to build a downtown grocery store, a luxury apartment tower and a garage that will replace Pogue’s Garage. The project will cost $80 million, with the city paying $12 million through a five-year forgivable loan and private financing paying for the remaining $68 million. The city’s loan is being financed through urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for capital investment projects downtown. The project was originally attached to the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, but the city administration says the urban renewal funds opened up after a hotel-convention center deal collapsed.

The city’s pension fund saw a return of 12 percent in fiscal year 2012, but the amount of money the city owes and should contribute to the pension fund continues to go up. The higher costs will likely force City Council to put more money toward the pension, which means less money for other services. City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since 2003 — a problem that was further exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008, which cost the city’s pension fund $102 million. Consultants suggested City Council view the pension fund as “not being of good health” and make changes that would help make the pension fund more “robust” and less volatile.

As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute 39 “double voter” cases, local groups are pushing back with warnings that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters. Most of the cases cover voters who mailed in an absentee ballot then showed up to vote on Election Day. Although the voters voted twice, their votes were only counted once. Critics of the investigations, including Hamilton County Democrats, cite Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says voters who show up to vote on Election Day after filing an absentee ballot should be given a provisional ballot. Hamilton County Republicans say they’re not prejudging anyone and just want an investigation.

Following a report that found Ohios juvenile correction facilities are among the worst in the nation for rape and other sexual assaults against incarcerated youths, the state is assigning assessors to the facilities to ensure proper protections and improvements are being put in place.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority is looking to expand its coverage to better market the region. The Port Authority’s plans call for enlisting 18 counties across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

A derailed train hit a local electrical tower yesterday, temporarily shutting down power for part of the region.

Fatal collisions between cars and trains at public railroad crossings increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008.

The former Terrace Plaza Hotel was sold, but it’s not clear what will come next for the building.

An experimental form of male birth control involves injecting gold into testes and zapping them with infrared light.

Another one of Saturn’s moons may contain an underground ocean.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.10.2013
Posted In: Voting, News, Government at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
voterfraud

County to Investigate 39 Voter Fraud Cases

Critics warn of potential chilling effect

As county and state officials move to investigate and potentially prosecute voter fraud cases, local groups are pushing back, warning that the investigations could cause a chilling effect among voters.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls became the latest to speak out in a letter to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“The current legal investigations perpetuate the idea that voter fraud is widespread, when it’s not true,” she wrote. “We need to work together to give citizens the confidence that the election process is fair and accessible to those who have followed the law and pre-determined process. When citizens are confused about the process of voting they are intimidated from exercising their full rights to vote, which erodes confidence in and the integrity of our democracy.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and League of Women Voters of Ohio sent similar letters to Husted in the past few weeks, echoing fears that the investigations will intimidate voters into staying out of future elections.

The controversy surrounds 39 “double voter cases recently sent to the county prosecutor by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. In most of the cases, the voters in question sent in an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voted on Election Day through a provisional ballot, which are given to voters when there’s questions about eligibility. Even though the voters technically voted twice, their votes were only counted once.

The letters from Qualls and the League of Women Voters claim the cases were sent to the county prosecutor based on a narrow interpretation of state law and other sections of election law back the voters’ actions.

The letters reference Ohio Revised Code Section 3509.09(B)(2), which says, “If a registered elector appears to vote in that precinct and that elector has requested an absent voter's ballot for that election and the director has received a sealed identification envelope purporting to contain that elector's voted absent voter's ballots for that election, the elector shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot under section 3505.181 of the Revised Code in that precinct on the day of that election.” The law goes on to clarify only one of the votes should be counted.

Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections on May 31, siding with the Republicans on the board who wanted to send the case to the county prosecutor.

Alex Triantafilou, an elections board member and chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, says Republicans just want an investigation.

“I think anytime a person casts two ballots we ought to ask why,” Triantafilou says. “This is not to prejudge any of these cases as criminal charges. That’s not been our intention. What we want is a qualified investigator to ask the question and then answer it.”

Tim Burke, chairman of the local elections board and the Hamilton County Democratic Party, disagrees: “This is a damn shame. What’s happening to those voters is absolutely wrong.”

Burke claims the law was followed and no further investigation is necessary. He alleges Republicans are trying to suppress voters.

“I fear that what’s going on is that elements of the Republican Party want to create the impression that there is massive voter fraud going on, and they want to scare the hell out of people to intimidate them and discourage them from voting in the future,” Burke says. “I think part of what’s going on here is an effort to identify voter fraud in order to justify more restrictions on voting rights.”

Triantafilou argues Democrats, including Burke, are playing politics: “It’s a continuation of the kind of fear that Democrats try to instill in the electorate, and it’s a political weapon. We’re not trying to do that. They alleged voter suppression in the last election cycle. That was nonsensical. The problem really is fraud.”

 
 
by German Lopez 05.24.2013
Posted In: News, Marijuana, Streetcar, Voting at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_weedunicorn

Morning News and Stuff

Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released

If you have any questions about Cincinnati, CityBeat’s staff will do its very best to answer if you submit them here.

The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio. Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.

Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding, but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $ bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”

Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.” Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists, but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency redirects public funds with minimal oversight.

Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Piatt Park.

A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.

The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.

Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.

An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.

Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.07.2013
Posted In: News, Energy, Voting, Budget at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Measure may limit voting, city tops LEED certified buildings, Medicaid could be on ballot

Today is primary election day in Ohio, but there are no ballot items in Cincinnati. Some Hamilton County precincts outside the city have ballot issues, which are listed here. Polls will be open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

An amendment snuck into the budget bill approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio House would force universities to decide between providing the proper documentation for voting to out-of-state students or getting extra money from out-of-state tuition rates, prompting concerns from Democrats that Republicans are attempting to limit voting opportunities once again. Republicans spent a bulk of the lead-up to the 2012 election approving measures that limit voting, including a later-repealed set of laws that greatly reduced early voting hours.

About 82 percent of all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in Ohio are in Cincinnati, and the reason is likely local tax incentives, which allow Cincinnatians to eliminate property taxes for up to 15 years by retrofitting businesses and homes in an environmentally friendly manner. CityBeat covered Cincinnati’s successes in solar energy here and FirstEnergy’s campaign to weaken Ohio’s energy efficiency standards here.

If legislators fail to take up the Medicaid expansion, the issue could appear on the ballot on November 2014. Supporters of the expansion, including Gov. John Kasich, say the expansion will help insure hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade, but Republican legislators say they’re concerned the federal funds backing the expansion will eventually dry up. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill, which effectively rejected the expansion for the time being, here.

The Ohio Department of Transportation says 2,230 bridges in the state need repairs, but there’s not enough funding to make it happen.

Ohio banks are warning of possible cyberattacks that could happen today. The Ohio Bankers League and the Ohio Credit Union League said the attacks would impact online services but not the security of customers’ bank accounts.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has the second highest airfares in the nation, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble was ranked No. 7 in a ranking for top 50 most diverse companies by DiverseInc.

Sometimes human brains make people do bad things, such as enjoying high-calorie foods even when the foods aren’t delicious.

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 10.09.2014 11 days ago
Posted In: News, Voting at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon husted

Dems Cry Foul Over Husted Signs in Polling Places

Republican secretary of state's name prominently featured on required polling place signs

Theoretically, there is no better real estate for a political candidate than the inside of a polling place, where a candidate’s name can be freshly stamped onto voters’ minds as they enter the voting booth. Currently, though, only one politician in Ohio gets access to this potential last-minute plug: Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

He says recent voter information signs prominently featuring his name are standard issue for secretary of state. But Democrats say he’s taking unfair advantage of his position.

There are laws against campaigning in polling places, and bumper stickers, buttons or other campaign swag are frowned upon in our temples of democracy the way movie theaters hate it when you try to sneak in some Twizzlers or a bunch of McChicken sandwiches in your pants. (I tried this once and the theater wasn’t too happy. I think you can sneak snacks into the polling places, though.)

So big signs with your name on them are a no-go, unless you’re the current secretary of state, charged with overseeing elections. Then you’re required to draw up informational posters with instructions on how voters can update their voter registration and make sure they’re at the right polling place. These posters can be posted at voting locations. You can also put your name on those things. Real big, if you want to.

Husted definitely wanted to, and did, emblazoning his name and signature on 2-foot by 3-foot posters that his office is now requiring all polling places to post. That has Democrats, including Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Tim Burke, crying foul.

Burke has taken exception to the inclusion of Husted’s name “the size of an oversized bumper sticker” on those posters. Burke is also chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, and he fired off an email earlier this week to Husted’s office demanding clarification about the requirement polling places post the posters. The letter contained some not-so-subtle digs as well.

“I am struggling to understand how it is legitimate or fair to create a situation where you will be the only candidate on the ballot in next month’s election to have your name prominently displayed along with the office to which you seek reelection in each polling place,” Burke wrote in the message dated Oct. 7.  

Burke also questioned the inclusion of a second, 11-by-17-inch poster that likewise prominently features Husted’s name. That poster, designed by a 5th grade contest winner, has little factual information about voting, Burke says.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Damschroder replied later that evening, saying the posters are a routine task for the secretary of state’s office and that Husted’s name and signature are present to assure voters that the poster is official. Damschroder also pointed out that county board of elections members, such as Burke, have their signatures displayed at the bottom of ballots.

Those signatures are small, however, and are unaccompanied by text spelling out the commissioners’ names. Perhaps they should work on the size and legibility of their autographs.

Let’s not forget the fifth-grade contest winner in all this. Damschroder said polling places aren’t required to post that poster.

“We have simply suggested that boards of elections post the winning design to advance the two-fold goal of encouraging participation in the democratic process, generally, and building civic-mindedness among the next generation of voters,” he said.  

If that kid is following along with what’s happening to that poster, she or he is surely getting a lesson about politics as well. 

 
 
by Samantha Gellin 09.05.2014 45 days ago
Posted In: Voting at 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon husted

U.S. Judge Blocks Measures to Cut Early Voting

Court sides with ACLU in struggle over early voting hours

“Golden Week”, the five-day period in which Ohio residents can simultaneously register and vote, will be restored under a ruling a federal judge made this week.

U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus issued a preliminary injunction Thursday ordering the state to establish at least two additional days of early voting in October, as well as evening hours during the week of Oct. 20.  Counties would have the right to tack on additional voting hours too.

The ruling is the latest chapter in Ohio's early voting saga, and a setback for Ohio Gov. John R Kasich and Secretary of State Jon A. Husted. Both Republicans say measures to reduce early voting are an effort to make voting hours across the state more uniform. In February, Kasich signed into law a bill that eliminated Golden Week, effectively reducing the early voting period to 28 days from 35 days. Husted also issued a directive that lopped off evening and weekend hours.  Such measures were necessary to reduce fraud, save money and create uniformity across the state, Kasich and his supporters have said.

The “ruling kicks the door open to having different rules for voting in each of Ohio’s 88 counties, which is not fair and uniform,” Husted said in a statement.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by several civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Ohio, and several African-American churches. Economus ruled that the reductions would disproportionately hurt low-income and minority voters, many of whom overwhelmingly use Golden Week to cast ballots. African-American churches, in particular, have taken advantage of the week by providing congregates transportation to and from the polls after services.  

According to a study cited in the ruling on early voting in the greater Cleveland area, “African-American voters cast an estimated 77.9 perfect of all” early votes in 2008.

In 2012, 1.9 million out of 5.6 million votes were cast early, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s office.

“This ruling will safeguard the vote for thousands of Ohioans during the midterm election,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a press release. “If these cuts had been allowed to remain in place, many voters would have lost a critical opportunity to participate in our democratic process this November. This is a huge victory for Ohio voters and for all those who believe in protecting the integrity of our elections.”

Early in-person voting will now begin Sept. 30, not Oct. 7.

The state will review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal, said Republican Mike DeWine, a spokesman for the state attorney general.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2014 96 days ago
Posted In: Voting at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eric_holder_official_portrait

Obama Administration to Join Ohio Early Voting Fight

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder says DOJ will use its power to defend the right to vote

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week said the Justice Department plans to join a lawsuit against the state of Ohio seeking to restore early voting in the state.

Holder revealed the DOJ’s intention to join the fight in Ohio over early voting during an interview about terrorism with ABC News in London July 11. That portion of the interview was unaired. Holder’s comments were revealed when the DOJ released transcripts to the press this week.

The Ohio suit, originally brought by the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups, claims the Republican-led elimination of early voting hours is unconstitutional because it will disproportionately affect minorities.

Ohio’s General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, passed laws in February eliminating six early voting days and same-day voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted subsequently eliminated early voting the last two Sundays before elections and on weekday evenings in the days before elections.

Some of Husted’s cuts to early voting the Sunday before elections were undone by a federal district court judge, who ruled that the state must reinstitute early voting in the final three days before an election. Despite that victory, the other cuts have yet to be restored and are the grounds for the ACLU’s lawsuit.

In the interview, Holder said voting is “the most basic of our rights” and vowed that he “will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.”

Holder also said the DOJ will file in another voting rights case over Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which has seen a pitched battle in federal courts.

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald applauded Holder’s comments in a news release today.

“I’m pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice will be joining the fight to protect voter rights in Ohio,” FitzGerald said in the release. “Under Governor Kasich, access to the polls has significantly decreased for hardworking Ohioans across the state.”

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2014
Posted In: News, Drugs, Voting, Development, Mayor at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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by German Lopez 02.24.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Governor, Economy at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_votingmachinesecurity

Morning News and Stuff

Board of Elections to move, Kasich repeals one early voting week, income inequality on rise

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday ruled that the Hamilton County Board of Elections can move to a former hospital site at Mount Airy after the 2016 election, but whether early voting moves along with the Board of Elections needs to be resolved separately. The decision does little to resolve the dispute between local Democrats and Republicans about which location — downtown or Mount Airy — is better for early voters. Democrats argue downtown, as the central hub of local public transportation, best meets the need of most early voters. Republicans argue the Mount Airy facility is closer to the center of the whole county and provides free parking, which Republicans say should make up for the few bus routes that go to the neighborhood.

Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed two controversial election bills that reduce the time allotted for early voting by one week and restrict counties’ ability to send out unsolicited absentee voting applications. The reduction of early voting in particular raised claims of “voter suppression” from Democrats because the bill eliminates the Golden Week in which early voters can register to vote and actually vote on the same day. Republicans say the bills are necessary to establish uniform early voting hours and rules across the state. In general, both sides acknowledge Democrats benefit from more early voting access and Republicans benefit from less early voting access.

Income inequality rose in Ohio between 1979 and 2011, but Ohio fared better than most states, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Ohio’s top 1 percent make roughly 18.1 times the annual income as the bottom 99 percent. In comparison, the average nationwide rate is 24.4 and the rate in the two worst performing states — New York and Connecticut — is 40.

Contrary to faulty reports from Councilman Charlie Winburn and The Cincinnati Enquirer, the city extensively warned residents about its decision to decertify the flood levee around Lunken Airport. In fact, Winburn in 2010 actually voted in favor of an ordinance that supported the decertification. The decision means residents in the area need to purchase flood insurance.

Mayor John Cranley and other city officials plan to boost minority- and women-owned business contracts through aspirational inclusion goals set between the city and contractors. Since the city can’t force businesses to meet the goals, Cranley acknowledges the city could fail. But contractors who worked on the Horsehoe Casino said a similar policy was effective in boosting minority rates for that project.

Two people died in Walnut Hills today after a stabbing and police-involved shooting, according to Cincinnati Police.

Cincinnati plans to increase efforts to get more solar panels on city rooftops. A more specific announcement should come in the next few weeks. Just a couple weeks ago, the Solar Foundation ranked Ohio No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs.

Ohio gas prices continued rising this week.

Watch a robot 3-D print with metal here.

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by German Lopez 02.20.2014
Posted In: News, Parking, Economy, Voting at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news parking

Morning News and Stuff

Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature

City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.

Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.

Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.

Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”

Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley said the competition will at least get them thinking about working together as a community for manufacturing jobs.

The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters, but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.

The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its 14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will target about 100 properties.

With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.

The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.

U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills.

Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for president.

Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.

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by German Lopez 02.12.2014
Posted In: News, Parking, Voting, Drugs at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan targets budget, GOP could restrict early voting, e-cigarette bill advances

Mayor John Cranley says his parking plan intends to alleviate Cincinnati’s ongoing budget woes by increasing parking revenue, but the plan will need approval from a majority of City Council to become law. The plan wouldn’t increase parking meter rates downtown, but it would increase neighborhood rates by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. The plan would also increase enforcement at parking meters, which could lead to more tickets, and extend enforcement hours to 9 p.m. around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the plan would not give control of the city’s parking meter rates and hours to outside entities, like the parking privatization plan did. Cranley plans to send the proposal to the Neighborhood Committee, with a full council vote possible in two weeks.

An Ohio House committee yesterday cleared a pair of controversial election bills that would reduce the state’s early voting period by one week — effectively eliminating a “Golden Week” in which voters can register and vote at the same time — and restrict counties’ abilities to mail out absentee ballot applications. The bills wouldn’t go into effect until after the May 6 primary. Democrats say the bills are blatant attempts at voter suppression, but Republicans, some of whom acknowledge they politically benefit from reduced access to voting, say the reform is necessary to eliminate voting disparities between urban and rural counties. The bills still need approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.

A bill placing age requirements on electronic cigarettes yesterday passed an Ohio Senate committee. Critics of the bill argue it doesn’t go far enough because it puts e-cigarettes in a different category than tobacco, which exempts e-cigarettes from higher taxes and stricter regulations even though they contain addictive substances and potential health risks. Kasich and the rest of the legislature need to OK the proposal before it becomes law.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reopened three school-based health clinics closed after Neighborhood Health Care’s abrupt shutdown.

A poll worker in Avondale allegedly voted twice, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

The Ohio Department of Education plans to increase the number of weeks schools can administer state tests to alleviate time concerns brought on by excessive snow days.

Meanwhile, the Ohio House plans to vote on a bill that would let schools take on more snow days this year.

A Christian university located south of Columbus gets public dollars to teach “biblical truth,” an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found. And the school’s president and lobbyist just happen to sit on the Ohio Board of Education.

NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw revealed he has cancer.

RoboCop isn’t that far off from reality.

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by German Lopez 01.31.2014
Posted In: News, Mayor, Economy, Voting, Fracking at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor targets joblessness, early voting might stay downtown, Kasich could veto fracking tax

Mayor John Cranley plans to address long-term unemployment in Cincinnati with several new initiatives, some of which could get support from the White House, he told CityBeat yesterday. According to Cranley, the idea is to end employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed or land the long-term unemployed into jobs to end the job-crippling gap in their resumes. Cranley’s push against long-term unemployment comes in preparation of his visit today to the White House, which is looking for different ways to tackle the sluggish economy without going through a gridlocked Congress.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said it would be “logical” to keep an early voting location downtown even if the Hamilton County Board of Elections moves its offices to Mount Airy. Husted’s comments imply local Republicans are alone in their effort to move early voting to a new Mount Airy location, where only one bus line runs. Democrats oppose the move because it would limit voting access for people who rely on public transportation. But local Republicans claim free parking at the facility would outweigh the lack of bus access. As the secretary of state, Husted could break the board’s tie vote over the issue and make the final decision on where its offices and early voting end up.

Gov. John Kasich threatened to veto a “puny” oil and gas tax, casting doubts on the current proposal in the Ohio legislature. The debate has put Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly at odds as the state undergoes a bit of an oil and gas boom because of fracking, a drilling technique that pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. Kasich has been pushing to reform and increase the severance tax for the state’s oil and gas producers. But Republican legislators have largely resisted Kasich’s call to action, instead pushing a proposal that increases the severance tax by much less than what the governor proposed two years ago. In both Kasich and legislators’ proposals, the raised revenue would be used for an income tax cut.

A Hamilton County judge should decide today whether a local abortion clinic can remain open while it fights a state-ordered shutdown.

This year’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program will target Walnut Hills and East Price Hill. The program aims to address a number of issues, including the number of calls to police, building code violations, vacant buildings, drug arrests, graffiti, junk cars, litter and weeds.

Cincinnati officials won an award for how the local budget is presented and communicated, even though it’s still not structurally balanced.

The Ohio Statehouse welcomes weddings and receptions except for gay couples, who can’t get the Ohio marriage certificate required to hold a ceremony at the location.

The Feb. 4 debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham over evolution and biblical creationism will stream live at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Evolution is taken as fact in the scientific world, but creationists deny its truth despite the clear, overwhelming evidence.

A school bus driver might have saved two children by yelling at them to get out of the way during a crash.

Scientists might have discovered a potential cure for peanut allergies.

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by German Lopez 01.30.2014
 
 
death penalty

Morning News and Stuff

Death penalty questioned, county advances crime lab, Anna Louise Inn to break ground

For some, Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute, seemingly painful execution raises constitutional and ethical questions about Ohio’s use of the death penalty. In particular, the convicted killer’s family and medical experts say the state’s use of a new cocktail of drugs presented problems even before McGuire was killed, with one Harvard professor of anesthesia warning the state prior to the execution that its dosage was too low for McGuire’s size and the drugs inadequate. Jonathan Groner, a professor of clinical surgery at Ohio State University, told CityBeat, “I wouldn’t want what he got to have my appendix out. … I would be concerned that I would feel something.”

Hamilton County commissioners yesterday accepted a Mount Airy facility offered to the county as a gift by Catholic Health Partners, with plans to use the former hospital as the campus for a new crime lab. The acceptance came despite previous warnings that the Mount Airy facility could not be taken in by the county if the Board of Elections didn’t also move its office and early voting to the Mount Airy location, where only one bus line runs, from its current downtown office. A party-line tie vote left the Board of Elections move in limbo, with a tie-breaking decision expected from the Republican secretary of state in the next few weeks. Democrats oppose the move because it would limit voting access for people who rely on public transportation, while Republicans argue free parking at the new facility would outweigh the loss of bus access.

Officials plan to break ground today on the Anna Louise Inn’s new location at Mount Auburn. The start of construction marks the beginning of the next chapter for the Inn afters its owner, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), lost a contentious legal battle against financial giant Western & Southern. CUB sought to keep the Inn at the location it has been at since 1909, while Western & Southern aimed to claim the property to invoke its full development vision on the Lytle Park neighborhood. After two years of litigation, both sides reached a settlement in which CUB agreed to move.

Commentary: Media Should End Reliance on “He Says, She Says.”

A local abortion clinic asked a Hamilton County judge to suspend a state order that would shut down the facility. The Sharonville clinic would close down by Feb. 4 if courts don’t step in.

With bipartisan support, the Ohio House cleared a bill that reduces the costs and speeds up the process of adoptions. But some Democrats worry the bill goes too far by shortening the period a putative father must register with the state if he wants to be able to consent to an adoption.

The tea party failed to put forward a Republican primary challenger to Gov. John Kasich.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says he’s talking to former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford as a potential running mate in a Democratic primary challenge against gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald. With less than one week left, Portune needs to name a running mate and gather 1,000 valid petition signatures to actually run — a prospect that’s looking dimmer by the day.

A federal judge sentenced an Ohio man who threatened to kill President Barack Obama to 16 months in prison.

Cincinnati-based Kroger might test an online ordering system.

Gladys, the Cincinnati Zoo’s newest gorilla, celebrated her first birthday party with cake.

Scientists developed hair-growing cells from ordinary skin cells, potentially providing a new option for curing baldness.

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by German Lopez 01.29.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, County commissioners at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
county administration building

County Accepts Mount Airy Facility for Crime Lab

New crime lab moves forward, but Board of Elections decision remains in limbo

Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday announced they will accept a Mount Airy facility offered to the county as a gift by Catholic Health Partners, opening the door to a new county crime lab at the location.

The acceptance comes despite lingering uncertainties about whether the Board of Elections will also move to the former hospital in Mount Airy. County commissioners previously warned the Board of Elections must move with the crime lab to provide the occupancy necessary to financially justify renovations at the 500,000-square-foot facility.

The decision also comes despite remaining questions about how exactly the cash-strapped county government will fund the move and the renovations it entails.

Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco and Sheriff Jim Neil both lobbied for the new crime lab. Citing expert opinions, they argue the current crime lab lacks space and needs to be modernized, which could put criminal evidence and trials at risk.

Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel called the gift a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” — a sentiment both other commissioners seemed to follow.

“This is a home run for law enforcement in Hamilton County,” Commissioner Greg Hartmann said.

Commissioners explained they will seek various opportunities to fill out remaining space in the facility.

Mayor John Cranley on Jan. 23 offered to move some city police services to the facility, but Hartmann told CityBeat the offer wouldn’t be enough to replace the Board of Elections.

“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” Hartmann said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”

But with Wednesday’s development, county commissioners appear ready to take up the Mount Airy facility and new county crime lab even if the Board of Elections doesn’t move.

On Monday, the Board of Elections split along party lines over whether the board should move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs. Democrats say the move would reduce voting access for people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans argue the potential of free parking at the facility outweighs the lack of public transportation.

Of course, part of the issue is political: Democrats benefit from a downtown voting location that’s easily accessible to Democrat-leaning urban voters, and Republicans benefit from a location closer to Republican-leaning suburban voters.

With the board’s tie vote, the issue now goes to the secretary of state — Republican Jon Husted — to potentially decide. The secretary of state’s office says Husted will make a decision after he reviews documents from the Board of Elections explaining both sides of the tie vote, but spokesperson Matt McClellan says Husted would like to see the issue resolved locally before he is forced to intervene.

 
 
 
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